Original Published on Nov 15, 2022 at 23:08

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Shipments of potash are at multi-decade highs, and western Canadian grain movement is on target and has risen in volume at the Port of Thunder Bay. 

“Grain is certainly stronger now than it was in the summer,” said Tim Heney, chief executive officer of the Thunder Bay Port Authority. 

Grain costs climbed again early this month and Heney doesn’t think it will affect Canadian exports immediately. 

“Depending on the markets. If the price is up, in eastern markets eventually move more grain in this direction but it’s likely we’ll not see much immediate impact because (the shipments) are already starting anyway,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to adjust how they move it that much because prices are set to the end of the year.”

As the fall grain harvest moves through the supply chain from Manitoba to the Thunder Bay port and onto its destination, local grain elevators handled 840,000 tonnes of wheat, canola, and other grains in October. Grain shipments for the month increased by 33 per cent compared to September and were eight per cent more than October of 2021. 

The 2021 grain harvest suffered as a result of drought and high temperatures in the Prairies. This year’s increase in grain shipments reflects a more typical volume of grain at the port. Heney says there is an estimated 93.5 million tonnes of Prairie grain harvested this year, which equates to the third largest harvest on record.

Fertilizer shipments exported from Saskatchewan have levelled off at the Port. 

“The Russia and Ukraine situation has already affected exports quite dramatically,” Heney said. “They’re up in a big way in Thunder Bay this year. It’s kind of  levelled off now, but it’s basically double what it was last year.”

Potash cargoes have also been strong throughout the 2022 shipping season with more than one million tonnes shipped through the port as of Oct. 31. Heney says that’s the most in more than 30 years. Potash is a vital component of fertilizer input and has been strained by global sanctions on Russian and Belarus products, which alone comprise 32 per cent of global production capacity.

Other shipments passing through the Thunder Bay port include pipe, which is used for the oil and gas industry in Alberta.

“There’s a lot of pipe this year,” Heney said. “There are three more ships of pipe still coming up.”

And he says they have “quite a bit” of steel rails from Europe stored at the terminal to be shipped out via rail cars. As for wind turbine components, Heney says that’s finished for the year and he expects shipments to pick up next year. 

There are a couple more project-cargo shipments coming before the end of the year as well, he said. 

They involve big components for either mines or mills out west. He added that they have seen a few shiploads of equipment come through this year that were destined for the Beardmore mining sector.

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario

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